No one can pass Go at Art Basel Miami this year without encountering Alec Andon, better known as art-world superstar Alec Monopoly. Originally a tagger decorating New York buildings with nostalgic images of Richie Rich, Uncle Scrooge and, yes, Mr. Monopoly, the 32-year-old provocateur has quickly leveled up to gallery favorite.
"It was a phone call," Monopoly tells Ndelible of his career turning point. "This was around 2008—I was just doing graffiti of Mr. Monopoly and I received a call from Todd Cohen, a big real estate guy in New York. He had seen my work before in the streets and was asking if I had any pieces to sell. Up until then I'd sold a few little things, but nothing serious. He commissioned ten paintings on the spot."
Previously, Monopoly had only garnered the attention of the NYPD's vandalism squad. But after his first commission from Cohen, calls from galleries in London and elsewhere started pouring in. He had his first solo gallery show in New York in 2010. "That was the turning point from having art in the street to making art that people could acquire and enjoy on their walls," he recalls.
With a saturated color palette and iconic subject matter, Monopoly's art is accessible to a broad audience. He got the idea to use Mr. Monopoly a decade ago when the economy went south, as a sort-of callback to Monopoly's Great Depression origins. "Guys like Bernie Madoff were being arrested on the news. So in the beginning it was kind of a meta-narrative, with the negative connotation of these evil investors and bankers."
But the more Monopoly painted the top-hatted fat cat, the more he came to love him.
"I changed the connotation to a positive one. He [became] a symbol of wealth and prosperity and happiness," he explains. "I really enjoy painting him—when I'm doing graffiti in the streets, it's not just for gallery-goers and collectors, it's for everybody. And people love looking at Mr. Monopoly. He brings back positive memories of playing the game with their family and friends."
Though he counts New York legends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat among his inspirations, Monopoly, a TAG Heuer brand ambassador, has ditched the Big Apple and set up shop in Miami, which has a vibrant graffiti scene of its own. "There are so many walls here for us to express ourselves— without illegally spray painting," he says. "New York City is being maximized. Every inch of space is used to make money and there really isn't much space in the streets to make artwork anymore... All the good spots where murals or graffiti would be are all taken up by advertising."
Now in his fifth or sixth Art Basel (he can't remember exactly) Monopoly is keeping a lid on what he'll be showing this year. But, he teases, "It's gonna be a huge."